Can I be honest? Being a creative is hard work.
I know – it’s rewarding and you get to do what you love but as the years go by and the pressures of life are multiplying it’s getting more challenging to see the bigger picture and remember why you started.
At least it has been for me. Growing up in an African household there are high expectations set for you as soon as you leave the womb. What you’re going to be, who you’re going to marry, and how you are going to make them proud. In a simple outlook these expectations aren’t horrible, but add an overwhelming pressure to succeed and a side of comparison with your aunties, cousin’s, friend’s, daughter who is working as an engineer, who got a 1st class degree, and is getting married- it’s a lot. No shade to 1st class engineers you’re doing well and should be proud, but what about the rest of us? What about the weird creatives?
As a teenager, I discovered my love for acting, writing and creating. I also had to battle with my parent’s dislike for it and their concerns for my future. “What are you going to do with this your drama?” My mum would say. “What job can you get from this?. But I stuck to my guns and my passion paid off. I was able to study creative writing with the full support of my parents. Looking back at that time, although it was a struggle to get my parents on my side I do believe I had it easier than others.
So what now? It’s a year after your graduation and you’re now in the working world. You must be on the fast track to the BAFTAs and Oscars, right? Well, no, not really. I’m so thankful and blessed for all the opportunities I’ve had this year. I’m working in this industry and meeting so many people who have offered some great advice at the level that I am. But that’s the thing – you’re very much aware of your level. As soon as you’ve lifted your graduation cap in the sky and head out to the big big world things are very real. You’re reminded of where you are and where you want to be and you question how in the hell are you going to get there? You think about your age and all the other things you need to sort out within your family, your personal life and of course your bills – never forget your bills. And then it seems like the dream…is maybe just a dream.
Scary, right? I felt like that. There’s so much pressure to just be doing something. To be constantly writing or creating for that perfect opportunity where the right person will discover you and like that! You’ll be living the life you’ve always imagined. But I found that even though I had these dreams I had made them so big and scary in my mind. So I felt a huge pressure to create a classic, or an award-winning script any time I sat down to write. It didn’t serve me well at all. I had to go back and honestly ask myself “ the awards and accolades are amazing but wait, why am I actually doing this?”. And it has helped me not only focus on the important things but take the pressure off my shoulders.
I also had to battle with my parent’s dislike for it and their concerns for my future. “What are you going to do with this your drama?” My mum would say. “What job can you get from this?. But I stuck to my guns and my passion paid off.
This doesn’t mean I have it all together- absolutely not. But the beauty of being a creative is being able to figure out your journey as you travel it.
Still struggling with the pressure? Here are 7 tips I’ve used to help you refocus.
1. Being serious with your craft.
This could be a whole manner of things. It could be like what I did, asking yourself questions about why you are doing what you do. It could also be acknowledging where you are as a creative and if there are things you can improve on. Do you need to make more time to write? Are you slacking in some areas? Are there things you don’t know? Being able to find the answers to those things will help you create small immediate goals to work towards.
2. Take the pressure off yourself
So you’re aware of what you don’t know. Don’t beat yourself up about it! You may not be where you want to be as a writer, filmmaker, or an actor, but it’s not the end of the world. There is still time to grow and time to learn. Be kinder to yourself and take things at a pace that is comfortable for you. Continue to have your goals they are great! But don’t chase them as validation. You’re still a creative without those awards or recognition.
3. Have fun with it!
Life and its responsibilities tend to weigh us down and it’s definitely not the best thing when you are trying to create something new. Remind yourself of why you’re doing this and how much you’ve enjoyed Think about the films that made you feel alive. Or the actor or director that made you fall in love with the craft. That wonder is what fuels our ideas and inspiration- it comes from within us. I tend to look back at my old pieces work and it takes me back to when I started. Of course, developing your ideas takes a great deal of work, but that energy makes it all worth it. So find that spark again and don’t let it burn out.
4. It’s never too late
This is dedicated to all the creatives who haven’t possibly had the chance to develop their ideas like some of us have. Maybe you were pressured into a career you don’t like or you feel like a beginner. Don’t get overwhelmed with your age or circumstances. Although it’s very easy to say so, you’re not alone. Your age doesn’t determine the quality of your ideas and talent and your stories and perspectives make you stand out as an individual.
5. Connect with others
Social media is amazing for connecting with people. I’ve found writer’s groups on Facebook, met some great people at networking events like LEVILE and chill. Finding people who are in the same position as you is a great reminder that you’re not alone and there’s great support in numbers. Find your people and prosper.
6. Find resources
There are so many options to choose from- a short course, a day workshop, online courses or even finding the right books. Find what suits your interests, level, and schedule. Learning about your craft is a great way to grow in your field and to find out what works for you in your creative process. It’s also not imperative to break the bank with these courses. Find as much information as possible, and ask others about their opinions on some of them.
7. Start Creating
It’s as simple as that. Keep on going and you’ll get there- I’m rooting for you!